View Slideshow

SCARLETT FEVER: It was French cinema’s big night, but the Americans stole the show at the Césars awards on Friday.

As the ceremony kicked off at the Théâtre du Châtelet, all eyes were on French actress Julie Gayet, making her first official outing since the revelation in January of her affair with French President François Hollande.

The evening’s presenters — which included Jeremy Irons, Beth Ditto, Rossy de Palma and Bérénice Béjo — studiously avoided mentioning her presence, instead directing a stream of suggestive comments at Scarlett Johansson, the recipient of an Honorary César for her career.

“I know that in the U.S. they call you Scarlett, but in France, it’s Wow Scarlett,” quipped mistress of ceremonies Cécile de France, wearing a Jay Ahr dress and Chaumet jewels.

The “Lost in Translation” star, in a Dior jacket and pants, took the jokes in her stride, but appeared genuinely surprised to receive a standing ovation when she rose to accept her award from Quentin Tarantino.

“There is no honor in cinema that can match a French cinema honor. It’s from the people and the country that hold the art of film higher than any other,” said Tarantino, who lamented the fact that Johansson was not among the Best Actress nominees at the Oscars.

“Personally, I very much wanted the satisfaction of voting for you for Best Actress for your heartbreaking performance in Spike Jonze’s ‘Her.’ Since I was robbed of that satisfaction, it is double satisfaction to give you the French César,” he said.

Johansson shot back, “I’m an actor for hire, just so you know. Keep that in mind.” The actress, who lives in Paris with her fiancée Romain Dauriac, appeared at pains to make amends after her criticism of Paris on “Late Show with David Letterman” triggered a local backlash.

“I’d like to thank France and the city of Paris itself for embracing me and welcoming me into the family. There isn’t a day that I spend here that I’m not deeply, deeply touched by the beauty of this city and by the integrity of its people,” she began.

“Thank you to my partner Romain, who inspires me every day and who teaches me how to appreciate France and French culture in all its deliciousness,” she added. Nonetheless, she was a notable no-show at the post-awards dinner held at Fouquet’s on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées.

Tarantino, who lost the Best Foreign Film award to Belgo-Dutch independent movie “Alabama Monroe,” drowned his sorrows with producer Harvey Weinstein, while Guillaume Gallienne toasted his four awards, including Best Actor, for his debut film “Les garcons et Guillaume, à table!” (or “Me, Myself and Mum”).

Earlier, Gallienne was briefly reunited onstage with Pierre Niney, his co-star in the biopic “Yves Saint Laurent,” who presented him with his award for Best Adaptation.

There was another fashionable guest at the ceremony: Designer Agnès Troublé, better known as agnès b., who makes her directing debut with “Je m’appelle Hmmm…” (“My name is Hmmm…”). The film, starring Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon, is scheduled for release in France on April 24.

“It’s the story of a child who runs away because she is abused by her father and it’s awful and she can’t denounce him,” she said. “It’s not my story, but I know what I’m talking about.”

Troublé, who runs the film production company Love Streams, said she enjoyed being her own boss on the shoot. “I had the freedom of an amateur producing their own film, so there was nobody tapping me on the shoulder to say, ‘You can’t do that,’” she said.